OFFICIAL ATTITUDE TO COVID-19

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Politicians may do well by obeying Covid-19 safety protocols

The level of adherence to health protocols by public office holders and politicians is a template for the majority of Nigerians when it comes to dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. That our politicians and public officials have not placed any value on how they are perceived by the average Nigerian has led to a situation in which they have openly and repeatedly flouted COVID-19 protocols established by health authorities to reduce the spread of the virus. With the assumption that these classes of Nigerians should know better about the pandemic, many have since concluded that the virus that has killed hundreds of thousands of people across the world cannot be a serious affliction.

On the political front, the Edo State gubernatorial election billed for 19th September has exposed the hypocrisy of those who should ordinarily lead the efforts to combat Covid-19. Politicians from both the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) – the two frontline parties contesting the elections – have thrown caution to the wind. On the altar of seeking votes from the electorate, their standard-bearers and supporters have jettisoned the importance of social and physical distancing, wearing of face masks and other Covid-19 preventive protocols.

A recent report by the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) showed that while a level of adherence is observed during campaigns in Benin, rallies done in rural areas had no semblance of health protocols attached. The fact that politicians and their supporters do not wear face masks or maintain physical distancing during rallies in Edo State, according to the report “cast doubt on the existence of coronavirus among voters. It remains to be seen whether the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will have the authority to insist that political actors, who are known for routinely disregarding election rules, should adhere strictly to the guidelines as conceived.”

Both the PDP standard-bearers, Governor Godwin Obaseki and his APC challenger, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, and other politicians are giving Edo people reasons to doubt the community spread of the virus. But the challenge is not restricted to Edo State. At social gatherings involving politicians across the country, all the protocols are often abandoned as witnessed during the burial ceremony of late Senator Buruju Kashamu in Ijebu-Ode recently. It did not matter to the mourners, including his close associates and kinsmen, that Kashamu died of COVID-19 related complications. That ordinarily should signify that the disease is a serious one. But it was not an issue as several people were pushing and shoving one another in a congested space.

The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has put the blame of what happened in Edo and at Kashumu’s burial at the doorsteps of governors, traditional and religious leaders. The National Coordinator of the PTF, Dr Sani Aliyu attributed the challenge to the fact that COVID-19 does not act like a proper pandemic. “If you have a proper pandemic like Ebola, you will have dead bodies on the streets, people bleeding to death. We do not need to do anything further to convince people to protect themselves and to do the right thing. We are faced with a pandemic that is an invisible enemy. We have a duty to ensure health protocols are strictly adhered to. This way we can defeat the outbreak in Nigeria,” said Aliyu.

We agree with him but his message should be for the people in authority who are flouting the guidelines. The lackadaisical attitude of leaders in the middle of a pandemic will not only increase the spread of the disease, it could also give Nigerians the false belief that it is either the outbreak is not as serious as reported or the whole pandemic is a hoax.

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The lackadaisical attitude of leaders in the middle of a pandemic will not only increase the spread of the disease, it could also give Nigerians the false belief that the outbreak is not as serious as reported